Words / Jenny de Jesus
Portrait / Mark Kushimi
Matthew Tapia will tell you he got lucky. The self-taught artist was working odd jobs and drawing in his free time when the owner of clothing giant Ecko Unltd. happened to spot Tapia’s work in his first and only art show in a small skate shop on the Windward side of O‘ahu. Impressed with what he saw, he left his card with the store and asked that Tapia call him before he left the island in two days time. Tapia made that call not knowing it would change his professional life forever. Just a couple of months later, he accepted a full-time job with Ecko in New York City.
After his serendipitous start, Tapia has put in the hard work to make it last. His time living and working in New York cemented Tapia’s passion for art and hand-lettering and, more importantly, helped prove to himself that he could make a career out of doing what he loves. Since returning to the Islands, Tapia has quietly built an expansive and varied portfolio of lettering and graphic work for companies such as Nike, Sixpack, Huf and many others. For Tapia, his story isn’t a fairy tale—lettering has become his life’s work and he never wants to stop.